Thursday, April 12, 2012

Detective Comics #52 (June 1941)

Oh, my, god. Guys! Take a look! The cover of the comic actually has something to do with the story inside! What a novel idea! That's right, Batman's fighting Oriental stereotypes again in part three of Bill Finger's continuing Gotham Chinatown saga!

 "The Secret of the Jade Box" 
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Our story begins as a rich collector of curios named Mr. Potter buys an exquisite jade box from an Arab named Achmed. Potter takes the box home and begins examining it when he notices that there is a false bottom to the box, at which point a mysterious shadowed figure comes out of nowhere and up and kills him.

Of course Potter had been scheduled to meet with Bruce Wayne that afternoon, and so Wayne and Potter's butler discover the man's corpse, alongside the empty jade box. The police investigate, but can't figure out anything, given that the man had no enemies and nothing was stolen. However, returning to Wayne Manor, Bruce tells Dick Grayson that he believes the police have overlooked the most important clue of all.
Returning to the crime scene as Batman, the Dark Knight retrieves the jade box and discovers the empty false bottom, reasoning that what the murderer was locking for had been hidden inside. Batman goes to investigate Achmend's curio shop. Meanwhile, a gang of Orientals are being ordered by their master to also go to the curio shop and tie up any loose ends. Batman discovers that the murderer got Potter's name and address from Achmed, and that the murderer had in fact sold the box to Achmed in the first place. Leaving the shop, the Dark Knight is immediately attacked by Oriental assassins, narrowly escaping them and the police.
Over the next few weeks, a growing number of businesses fall prey to a protection racket run by some Chinese gangsters back by some mysterious power. Upset, the business owners appeal to Loo Chung, the unofficial mayor of Chinatown and successor to Wong (killed by hatchetmen in Detective #39). They ask Chung to appeal to the Batman for help, as he has always helped them in the past. At that moment, Batman happens to arrive to consult Chung about the jade box, but asks about the protection racket and what he can do to help. Hilariously, the protection racket turns out to be the direct descendants of Genghis Khan, who in Bill Finger's Chinese history, was nothing more than a racketeer writ large, demanding tribute from villages in exchange for "protection". In this version of events, each of Khan's descendants claimed legitimacy because of an elaborate golden ring.
Batman promises to assist with the investigation, at which point the businessmen leave. Batman then asks Chung about the jade box and its contents. Chung reveals that in fact the box contained the fabled ring of Khan, which Chung now wears on his hand, because Chung is heading up the protection rackets! Bwa ha ha ha ha! He drops Batman down a trapdoor into a dungeon (of course), where the Dark Knight must fight off wild dogs and murderous Mongol guards!
But it looks like the end for Batman when he is cornered by Chung and a gun, until of course Robin comes out of nowhere and saves his ass. Batman then defeats Chung and rescues an old man chained up in the dungeon. This is Wong's father. It turns out Wong was the Khan descendant, but had refused the ring's power being an honourable man. When Chung took over, he coveted the ring, so Wong's father had it placed in the jade box and sold, to get rid of it, which started the whole mess. Batman takes the ring, and vows to destroy it, which he claims will enable the Chinese to "walk free again as all men should".

My Thoughts: Okay, so this is a pretty standard Batman-as-the-Shadow kind've tale, very reminescent to the early, pre-Robin Finger/Kane pieces to which it is, in fact, a sequel. It feels like it has everything -- murder mystery, gangsters, cackling villain with trapdoor dungeon, et cetera. It also has a plot that simultaneously is respectful and totally dismissive of the Asian peoples. I've always liked that in Finger's Chinatown stories there are good, honest Orientals alongside the villainous ones, and that Batman is smart and respectful enough to know the difference. He never talks down to his Chinese allies, but treats them as fellow American citizens, which they are.  But in this story, its Finger's narrative that comes across as condescending. The entirety of Genghis Khan's rule and his successors is reduced to being a bunch of Chinese gangsters, and Batman's destruction of Khan's ring an act of heroism enabling the freedom of all the Chinese peoples. Yes, because what the Chinese of 1941 needed was an American to free them from fear of Mongol rule. 
The Art: The usual good quality from the Kane studio. Quite a number of the poses and faces seem swiped from earlier Batman/Chinatown stories, but that's to be expected when dealing with Bob Kane's pencils.
The Story: I must say, I always admire Bill Finger's continuity in his stories, when he uses it. This is the third connected story dealing with Batman in Gotham's Chinatown, after Detective #35 and #39. It's been quite a while since those stories, though, which makes it feel like a throwback story rather than something new. It's very much in the vein of those older tales, right down to the fact that it's mostly a Batman story with a very light Robin presence. It's derivative, both of earlier Batman stories as well as The Shadow, but its entertaining enough to enjoy on its own merits.
Notes and Trivia: Third in the Gotham Chinatown series.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Detective Comics #51 (May, 1941)

"The Case of the Mystery Carnival"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Bruce and Dick are out on a car ride in the country to get some "fresh air" and a "break from crime". They happen upon an amusement park that happens to be owned by one Colonel Dawes, whom Bruce describes as an old friend. (Bruce Wayne has friends? Wait! Dawes? Dawes...)
After going on some of the rides and games (Dick cleans out the shooting range of course), Bruce notices slot machines being played, something Colonel Dawes would've never allowed. Bruce goes to see Dawes in the administrative office, but the Colonel doesn't seem to recognize Bruce. He walks off with another gentleman, scratching his left leg. Bruce points out to Dick that Dawes lost his left leg in the Great War, and Bruce recognizes the other man as a small time crook from Gotham. Realizing something is afoot, the pair change into Batman and Robin and begin an investigation.
They follow "Dawes" and his companion into the wax museum, and discover a hidden room in the back. Listening to the conversation inside, they discover that the amusement park has been taken over by a gang of criminals. They've gotten one of their men to impersonate Dawes while they collect all the profits from the amusement park. So they're basically running the business legitimately? They're even keeping Dawes alive for some reason. They do mention that they're also picking the pockets of the patrons, but that almost seems unnecessary at this point, and other than the kidnapping its the only really illegal thing they're doing. 
Anyways, Batman and Robin burst in, but are overpowered, tied up, and left in a room with the kidnapped Colonel Dawes. Why the crooks didn't kill any of them is a question left unanswered. The crooks themselves are freaking out, thinking that if Batman has discovered their game than the cops must not be far behind. They reason to get out while the getting's good, and decide to hold-up the entire park before escaping. (So they don't quite understand the basic concept of quitting while ahead...)
The Dynamic Duo end up getting rescued by the crazy Park caretaker, and Batman decides to take Colonel Dawes to a hospital and leave Robin to stop the gang "without getting hurt." I am sorry to say that I question your tactics, Batman.

Robin attacks the gangsters, leading them on a merry chase through the park's fun house, complete with the usual gags regarding halls of mirrors and so on. It's a pretty visually dynamic sequence, filled with plenty of fun.
Meanwhile, Batman's already back from driving into town and back apparently, and gets his own four page action sequence as he chases the gangsters around the park, cornering the leader and chasing him onto the rollar coaster, where they have a dramatic battle. At one point Batman punches him so hard it knocks him off the car, but rather than let him fall to his death Batman catches him, and continues punching him. 
Batman and Robin leave the crooks for the police and head home.
My Thoughts: Basically a lighthearted "filler" piece, an opportunity for some fun action setpieces, but no real substance here. I mean, what passes for substance in a Golden Age comicbook.
The Art: The artwork is pretty darn good. While nothing super stands out, there's certainly a competence in depicting the action and chases in an exciting and dynamic fashion that is a huge step beyond where this series was even a year previously.
The Story: Why would a bunch of city crooks decide to take over an amusement park? Why would they keep Dawes alive if they had a guy capable of impersonating him? The story here is really, really light, largely an excuse to engage in the action sequences. Finger's taking a vacation here, like the characters are, handing in a breezy story that allows for some fun for the art team.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

World's Best Comics #1 (Spring 1941)

So the New York World's Fair comics of the previous two summers had been very successful in promoting DC's characters because they offered (poor) children the opportunity to pick up Superman, Batman, Zatara and other popular heroes in one book for simply fifteen cents. So the comic continued the next year as World's Best Comics, soon to be retitled as World's Finest Comics with issue 2. Kids could get Superman and Batman in the same issue (although not the same story, at least not for another decade or so). 

"The Witch and the Manuscript of Doom"
Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: George Roussos
Synopsis: On a dark and stormy night (sigh), a writer named Erik Dorne is alone in his study finishing the manuscript for his new book when a witch enters through the window and murders him, making off with the manuscript. The butler calls the police, and soon Commissioner Gordon and his friend Bruce Wayne are on the scene examining the murder. Because the commissioner of police and his layabout playboy buddy are always personally investigating murder scenes in this city for some reason.
The butler testifies that the murderer was dressed as a witch and stole Dorne's manuscript, which was to be a book about a witch, based on a true story. Gordon and Bruce deduce that the witch must have killed Dorne in order to avoid being revealed. At that moment, a man named Joshua Grimm (oy!) walks in. He is an author of books on witches and demonology, and a rival of Dorne's. Then another man bursts in, this is Mr. Wright, Dorne's publisher who was heading to the house to pick up the completed manuscript. 
Gordon takes Bruce along to interview the other suspects. One is Dorne's aunt, an impoverished old woman with two big strong sons who looks like a witch and resents Dorne for never giving her any of his money. Then there's Dorne's fianceƩ Jane Ware, an actress currently starring as a witch in a play (of course), and who was seeking to divorce Dorne so she could marry someone else.
Arriving home at Wayne Manor, Bruce asks Dick to get him a sample of hair Jane Ware's stage wig, to compare with a bit of hair he found at the murder scene. Robin heads out to get the hair, managing to do so despite a run-in with stage security. Meanwhile, Batman heads off to search the home of Dorne's aunt to find the manuscript, and has to fight off her two sons. Finding nothing, he escapes.
Reunited, the Dynamic Duo set to work examining the hair. Finally, Bruce announces that he has deduced the identity of the witch and is going to prove his theory. He makes a phone call to an unidentified person and tells them there is a duplicate manuscript hidden in Dorne's room. The trap set, Batman and Robin head out to meet the witch.
Ambushing the witch at Dorne's home, the witch attempts to escape in a car, but the Dynamic Duo make chase. Soon, they follow the witch into a secluded house, but fall through a trap door in the yard and pass out! When they awake, they are tied up and in the basement of the house, surrounded by what appears to be a printing press. It turns out (stay with me on this one) that the witch is in fact a Nazi fifth columnist, publishing subservise literature! As a Nazi agent, the identity of the witch was adopted to ensure complete secrecy, even from the men working under the agent. (So... why a witch? That's sort've... ridiculous). Batman manages to get free and soon the heroes are fighting the Nazi agents. After defeating the witch, Batman unmasks the Nazi as Mr. Wright, Dorne's publisher! Batman explains that only Dorne knew about the manuscript before the murder, and so was the only possible suspect for its theft. Dorne had discovered that Wright was publishing Nazi propaganda, and was going to expose him in his book.
My Thoughts: What is this story? At first it seems to be promising to pit Batman against a supernatural foe, a witch. Then it turns into a whodunnit murder mystery, similar to the run of Detective #40-43. Then it turns out we've been fighting Nazis all along. While fighting Nazis certainly brings realworld events into the comics, the whole effort feels slapdashed and put together from spare parts to make it into this first issue of World's Best.
The Art: The art for the most part is nothing to write home about. The best panels are during the chase scene, which takes place during a heavy rainstorm. Otherwise it's just under par, mostly due to a quick and dirty ink job.
The Story: The writing here is awful. This is truly "comic book logic". Why would an American publisher working as a Nazi agent disguise himself as a witch? Why does he even need such a disguise? If Dorne had uncovered him, why write an entire book about the witch for publication (when he'd need to publish it THROUGH the man he's exposing?) Why not just call up the FBI and say "hey, this guy's a Nazi!"? This is definitely an inferior effort from Finger, cooked up from a bunch of half-baked formula plots to meet a deadline.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Batman #5 (Spring 1941)

A good and memorable cover, but it's actually the opening splash page from Batman #4 repurposed as a cover image. Except that last time they used it they remembered to put the Bat-logo on his chest. Seriously, Kane!

"The Riddle of the Missing Card"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Last time we saw The Joker, he had fallen down a trapdoor in his hideout which led into the sewers, where he was washed out to sea. There he is picked up by a gang of crooks smuggling diamonds on steamer ships, who quickly realize his true identity. Since their diamond smuggling business is running dry (due to the war), they elect Joker as their new leader in order to develop a new racket. The gang introduces themselves as Queenie (a beautiful raven-haired femme fatale), Diamond Jack Deegan (former leader), and Clubsy (the muscle). This overjoys Joker, who declares them the Four Cards gang -- the Joker, the Black Queen, the Jack of Diamonds, and the King of Clubs! The Joker's idea is a gambling ship outside the three-mile-limit for society high-lifes where Queenie will play host, while Jack pumps the players for information about their jewels, which the gang will promptly steal. Which is sort've convoluted, but okay, sure.
So, of course the gambling ship becomes a great success, and an outrage to City politicians. Bruce decides he's going to investigate the ship in his guise as a layabout playboy. While shaving, he nicks his chin with his razor, and the only reason I mention this is because of course it's going to be important. Chekov's gun and all that.
Bruce arrives on the ship, remarks at how people people who gamble are losers, and is then chatted up by Queenie. The two dance and begin to share a connection -- Queenie even guesses to herself that Bruce's boredom is merely an act. A while later, while lighting a match for his cigarette no less, Bruce overhears Queenie, Jack, Clubsy, and the Joker disguised as an old man, discussing their next heist: the yacht of rich Mrs. Logan! But Joker sees Bruce eavesdropping and has Clubsy knock him out. Although Queenie objects, Joker decides to throw him overboard so he'll drown, and then in a great bit of overkill, shoots into the water just to be sure.
Of course, Bruce is fine. He swims to shore and makes his way back home to join Dick and change in Batman and Robin. They rush through the secret tunnel to the (Bat)barn and the two drive out into the night in... the Batmobile! And not the red Cord that the Batman's been driving since Detective #27, but an actual Batmobile.
It's got all the traits that would be defining characteristics of the Batmobile for the remainder of the Golden Age: the dark blue colour, Batface battering ram, and single batwing-like fin at the back. While other details of the car would change with the artists, these features would be definitive and first appear here.
Anyways they drive down to the dock where the Logan yacht is, where they catch Joker and his gang in the act, and engage in a two-page fight scene. The Joker tries to escape, and Batman goes after him, leaving Robin to fight off the rest of the gang all by himself. So yeah, child endangerment wasn't really a concept in 1941.

So we get a genuine car chase as the Batmobile races after the Joker along a series of winding mountain roads. But Joker stops his vehicle in the centre of the road, forcing Batman to swerve off to avoid him, crashing the Batmobile down a steep ravine. Joker is overjoyed with the apparent death of his great foe. (But of course, Batman has jumped out just in time).
Meanwhile, Robin is captured by the Joker and his gang. Having taken the Boy Wonder's utility belt, the Joker discovers the wireless radio in the belt buckle and decides to use it to test whether the Batman is really dead. So of course Batman answers and Joker promptly sets Robin up as a hostage, telling the Dark Knight to come alone. Robin manages to yell out that it's a trap, which Batman is counting on, and gosh we're gonna see replays of this storyline over and over in future issues after this aren't we?
When Batman arrives on the gambling ship, Joker introduces him to the gang -- the Black Queen, Jack of Diamonds, and King of Clubs, and proceeds to challenge the Dark Knight to a game of cards for Robin's life. It is at this point that Queenie notices Batman has the same nick in his chin. Clearly they are one and the same! Joker wins the card game (with a joker, of course), so Batman kicks the table over (poor loser), and starts a fight. Joker, having planned for this (It is a trap, after all), lights the room on fire, leaves and locks everyone in with steel doors and shutters so they'll all die in the fire.
Realizing they've been betrayed by the Joker (gee, what'd you think was gonna happen?), Jack takes his chance to try and shoot the Batman, but is shot instead by Queenie. Revealing that she has fallen in love with the Dark Knight, she embraces him but is shot by the dying Jack. Surrounded by the rising flames, Batman holds her in his arms and kisses her as she dies. Then he unties Robin and blows a hole in the wall by combining two vials from his utility belt.
The Joker has taken off in a speedboat, so Batman and Robin hop in the boat Batman used to get here and pursue. Of course there's a huge storm, with waves crashing and lightning striking and so on, and Finger describes Joker's laughter to be loud enough to be heard even about the storm. Joker makes it to a lighthouse and the Dynamic Duo catch up. Batman battles Joker at the top of the lighthouse, but he manages to knock the Dark Knight over the railing. Holding on with one hand, the Batman hangs as Joker gloats. But of course he's forgotten about Robin, who beats up Joker and sends him over the edge for yet another "Joker has fallen to a watery grave... or has he?" ending. 
Upon getting back to Wayne Manor, Bruce remarks that the one card Joker forgot about was Hearts, and remarks that it was the heart of Queenie that saved them. A corny, but effective, ending.
My Thoughts: This is a big scale epic Joker vs. Batman adventure that really feels like the next step up in these kinds of stories. While the gambling ship angle is pretty lame, the subplot of Queenie and Batman's relationship will inform Batman/Catwoman stories for a long time as well as most Bruce Wayne romances (girl finds out his secret, promptly dies). You have the debut of the Batmobile and a gripping car chase, the kidnapping of Robin, that epic boat chase in the storm, and the big lighthouse finale. It feels very cinematic. A great Batman story.
The Art: The art is really fantastic, especially the last three pages or so of the boat chase and lighthouse fights. Roussos and Robinson's dark and moody inks really make all the difference. And the Batmobile is, of course, awesome.
The Story: I think the biggest problem Bill Finger is going to have is that he keeps making each Joker story bigger and better than the last and eventually it's going to get very difficult to keep topping them. This one in particular is very spectacular and feels like a huge confrontation for the two antagonists. While it's enjoyable and a great sweeping read, I do find myself wondering how Finger can make the Joker last as a continuing villain after each huge story, especially with these repetitive "maybe dead, maybe not" endings.
Notes and Trivia: First appearance of the Batmobile, first uncovering of Batman's identity by an outsider
Joker Body Count: 17

"Book of Enchantment"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: All right. Just bear with me on this one. The Dynamic Duo stop a house burglary to discover the homeowner is a scientist named Professor Anderson, who right after his introduction insists that he is not a comic book mad scientist. He shows Batman and Robin his latest invention, a machine which beams the user into the world of any book the user is reading. Batman insists that isn't possible, but the professor comes back by saying that at one point flight wasn't considered possible. Which doesn't really explain anything. Anyways, turns out that the professor's daughter was testing the machine by reading a fairy tale anthology. She disappeared and hasn't returned, so the professor wants her rescued. Batman agrees, and the Duo is sent into Fairyland.
They immediately run into Father Time, who explains the girl has been captured by the black witch Gruel, and that they have until sundown to rescue her otherwise they are all trapped forever. For some unexplained reason. Right away Gruel shows up on her broomstick and sets a man of fire and a man of ice on the heroes to destroy them. By knocking the two men into each other, fire melts ice and is put out by water.
Batman and Robin run into Simple Simon, who explains that to get to Gruel's lair they must pass through the mountain of the Great Dragon. Batman fights and defeats the dragon by tossing a vial of explosive chemicals into its mouth and blowing up its head. They ask directions of Humpty Dumpty who informs them that Gruel's castle is up Jack's beanstalk. They climb up and reach the castle in the clouds, complete with Cyclops giant, who chases Batman and Robin around the castle with another giant but are both defeated. 
Making it to the witch's lair, they fight some more monsters in her dungeon, one of whom reveals to Batman that to defeat Gruel he must wrestle her and stay on until she has shifted shape three times. If he does that, she becomes powerless. Batman promptly does so, defeating Gruel, who throws herself over the parapet in despair. The Dyamic Duo rescue the girl and use a flying carpet to get back to the point where they arrived, where they are pulled out of the world of the book by the Professor. The End.
My Thoughts: Yeah, I did not enjoy this one. As much as I've been gradually learning that Batman can be fun in multiple genres and doesn't have to be urban and dark all the time, this ridiculous "Batman in Fairyland" premise is just way too childish for me. 
The Art: I wish I could say the artwork here redeems the story, but it doesn't. The only particularly memorable sequence is of Batman and Robin fighting the dragon, a huge almost Oriental beast that slithers and moves extremely convincingly. But the rest of the story is pretty lazy and flat.
The Story: Okay, so here's the deal. This whole story is basically a rehash of Detective Comics #44. Dynamic Duo is sent by a mad scientist into a fairytale world to fight giants and demons. The major difference is that in the previous version Finger saw fit to make the story a dream of Robin's. Here it's all real. Oddly enough, I'd have an easier time believing that story than this one. In Detective #44, the professor's invention sent the heroes into another dimension which resembled a fairytale world (because Dick had been reading fairytales when he fell alseep), whereas here it's a machine that beams people into the world of a book. Which makes no sense whatsoever and raises a ton of questions, some existential (to what degree are the world's inhabitants sentient if they were created by a writer? Could I beam into a book and change it's ending?), some practical (why the hell would the professor send his daughter into any book for a test that could possibly be dangerous?). Finally, because the Dynamic Duo are in a fairytale, Finger uses it as an excuse for a ton of lazy plotting, because it's a fairytale and doesn't have to make sense. This is a weak, weak, Batman story, and I can't even say it's unique because it's largely a rip-off of a story from the previous year.

"The Case of the Honest Crook"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Batman stops a thief who has stolen six dollars from a storeclerk. Both Batman and the clerk find this odd, and give the crook a chance to explain himself. He says his name is Joe Sands, and his story begins two years ago when he was working in a garage and engaged to a beautiful girl named Ann. Joe wanted to get married, but Ann wanted to wait until the couple had $200 in the bank. One day, a bunch of gangsters ask if they can keep a stolen car in Joe's garage until the heat dies down. They offer him $200, so Joe agrees. Overjoyed, he shows Ann the money, but she refuses to marry him if he takes the money from the gangsters. So the next day Joe returns the money, promising the gangsters he won't say anything to the police.
But the gangsters won't take his word. They arrange a car crash and make it look like Joe was a drunk driver and responsible. Joe is sentenced to two years in prison, the judge not believing his tale of being framed. When he gets out, Ann is waiting for him, and convinces him not to go after the gangsters for revenge. Instead, they get married. But Joe finds he can't get a job anywhere once employers find he has a prison record. One day, Ann gets sick. Doctor says she'll be all right as long as Joe can get some medicine. 
But Joe can't afford the medicine, which is six dollars. Hence, the robbery. Luckily, Batman's in a charitable mood, and believe's Joe's story. He gives him some money to pay for the medicine and tide him over, and vows to go after the mobster from Joe's story -- Matty Link of Smiley Sykes' mob.
Batman pays a visit to Smiley in his office, demanding to know if Matty Link was responsible for the framing of Joe Sands. Smiley sicks his goons on the Dark Knight, who proceeds to beat them up and leave, assuming Smiley's attack as admission of guilt. Smiley tells Matty that Batman's looking for him and Matty decides to skip town. Smiley decides that may not be good enough, and sends a hitman to kill Matty and ensure he doesn't talk.
When Bruce reads of Matty's death in the paper, he decides to send Dick to investigate Matty's room and try to find some evidence, while Bruce pays a visit to Commissioner Gordon's office to find out if the police found anything on Matty's body. Robin arrives at Matty's apartment at the same time as some of Smiley's thugs, who are there to destroy any remaining evidence. They attack the Boy Wonder.
Waiting back at Wayne Manor, Bruce concludes that Robin should've been back hours ago. He heads out in the Batmobile to investigate. So we know that Batman must be quite a mechanic and can easily fix one up when it's been damaged, since the Batmobile crashed off a ravine just two stories ago.
When he arrives at the apartment he discovers Robin has been beaten to a bloody pulp and left to die. He picks up the body of the Boy Wonder (an oddly familar image to modern fans), and swears horrible vengeance on the criminals responsible. However, as he places Robin's body in the Batmobile he notices the Boy Wonder is still breathing. With a chance that Robin could survive, Batman rushes to the home of a doctor and demands that he operate on Robin immediately. The doctor is hesitant, but Batman threatens to kill the man if he does not operate. The doctor agrees, but because it is his duty to help not because of the Dark Knight's threats.
Back in the Batmobile, Batman speeds across town to Smiley's sanctum. And he is not to be fucked with. 
As he pulls up, he is shot in the shoulder by a lookout man. Not a problem. Batman bursts through the locked door, Superman-style, tackles some dudes, and takes another bullet in the shoulder without even flinching. He beats up the rest of the gangsters, at one point picking a dude up by the foot and beating them other gangsters with him. Smiley takes a shot, hitting Batman square in the chest, but the Dark Knight presses on, grabbing Smiley by the throat and not letting go until Smiley agrees to write a signed confession about Joe Sands. 
Batman then drags Smiley and the confession into a police station and leaves him there. Then he heads back to the doctor he left Robin with, who tells Batman that Robin has recovered. It is only them that Batman succumbs to his injuries and passes out.
He wakes up later to discover the doctor operated on both members of the Dynamic Duo successfully, even honouring their privacy and not removing their masks. Joe Sands name is cleared and he gets a job at the store he robbed at the start of the story. Hooray!
My Thoughts: So here's a story that starts slow but gets a real visceral pay-off. The best section is undoutably Batman's vengeful rampage after Robin is beaten. Do not make the Dark Knight angry, man. It sort've fits into the "social crime drama" subgenre of Finger's, with this poor boy who became a criminal because of all these external factors, but then it definitely becomes a straight Batman beat-'em-up by the end. It's a pretty good read, but mainly memorable for the "almost dead Boy Wonder" sequence.

The Art: The art's good, but not spectacular. There's a good moody sequence of Robin sneaking into the apartment, and of course the image of Batman holding Robin's bloodied body in his arms, which has been much homaged and copied to the point where I think most people would identify the 1988 version as the original.
The Story: There are two stories here: the honest crook and the revenge of Batman. They are only tenuously related and only one of them is interesting. Joe Sand's story is so over-the-top with how put-upon he is that it kind've strains credulity. It's really only there to motivate the Bat-action later. 

"Crime Does Not Pay"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis:  The Dynamic Duo are in the process of breaking up a bank robbery when Batman is shocked that one of the crooks actively takes a hit from the Dark Knight to save another. The crooks run to get away and Batman sees the one they were protected was just a kid! (This seems familiar). The crooks hop in a car and the heroes make pursuit in the Batmobile, but lose them in a bad neighbourhood. Knowing that allowing the police to case the neighbourhood would be useless, Batman decides to investigate the next day as Bruce Wayne.
Wandering through the neighbourhood, Bruce bumps into Linda Page, a society girl from Bruce's group of rich friends whom we've never seen before. Bruce asks where Linda's been, since she seems to have dropped out of society functions. Linda, as it turns out, had gotten fed up of doing nothing with her life and has gotten a job as a nurse, working in less fortunate neighbourhoods. She scolds Bruce for wasting his time as a playboy, and Bruce offers to walk her home.
They pump into old Mrs. Crogan, whose son Tommy has been spending too much time with his gangster brother Mike, whom he idolizes. Bruce concludes this is the same kid and gangster from the other day. Later that afternoon, the gang robs another bank. Tommy is shot and wounded by a police officer, so Mike decides to kidnap Linda to force her to treat Tommy's injuries. Mike swears to Linda that he never meant for Tommy to get hurt, but he just idolized his older brother so much that he insisted on coming along. Linda agrees to help.
Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are searching Linda's room for information about the Crogan gang (okay,) and find a note written by Linda from when she was kidnapped. The Dynamic Duo rush to the rescue. Batman decides to go to the pool hall Mike hangs out at disguised as a mobster named Trigger Burns so as not to arouse suspicion.
He arrives at the pool hall, but unfortunately Trigger had been killed the other day, so the gangsters see through the disguise. They assume that Batman is an undercover dick, and he has to fight his way out. Asssuming the cops are after Crogan, the gangsters go to warn him. Batman and Robin follow them to Mike's hideout (so this was the plan all along?). 
Turns out the gangster sent to "warn" Mike is actually there to kill Mike, along with Linda and Tommy, so they don't rat anyone out to the cops. Mike is shot, but before Linda and Tommy can be hurt, the Batman arrives. There's a three page fight scene between the Dynamic Duo and the gangsters, during which the shots fired bring the police. When they arrive, our heroes quickly flee the scene.  Mike dies in the arms of a police officer, insisting that his brother Tommy had nothing to do with any of it, that his only crime was wanting to be like his brother. Mike makes Tommy promise to go straight, and he does. 
Later, Batman is meeting Linda for dinner, and we get a typical "if only Bruce was more like the Batman" sentiment from her.
My Thoughts: So this is another Bill Finger moral allegory story. Yet again we get the message not to idolize gangsters, otherwise we'll probably end up dead. I wonder how many variations Finger's going to be able to find on this theme before it gets old. Either way, this story and the last one are both interesting for Batman showing a kind've understanding of criminals and the situations that drive them to crime. This injects the strip with a bit of liberal humanism, that some criminals aren't as bad as others because they've been driven to this by outside circumstances. Its' an inconsistent attitude for Batman to have, and it begs the question "at one point does a criminal cross the line and become irredeemable?" Because a lot of Batman villains and criminals in general have tragic backstory, but not all of them get Batman's understanding. If I had to hazard a guess, that line would probably be the same as Batman's: murder.
This story also sees the first appearance of Linda Page, Finger's latest attempt at a love interest for Bruce Wayne/Batman. She's got a bit more of a personality and character than Julie Madison, but not much -- ex-society girl who becomes a nurse and wishes Bruce was more like Batman isn't all that different from society girl who becomes an actress and wishes Bruce was more like Batman. The main difference is Bruce and Linda only have a flirtatious friendship relationship whereas Bruce and Julie were engaged. Anyways, we'll see how long Linda lasts -- Batman never manages to have a lasting love interest for long.

The Art: Standard level of quality from the Kane Studios. There's a couple of great panels of Batman's shadow rising up the walls that are really cool. Generally the whole strip has adopted the feel of Warner Bros. crime dramas, only in colour. It's always enjoyable to read.
The Story: Very similar to a few previous Batman moral allegory stories, including the previous story in this issue. The main new concept is the addition of the Linda Page character. That being said, it's not a bad story from Finger, just a familiar one. It's clear that Finger was intent on providing regular anti-crime message stories to kids as well as entertainment. In this way, Batman #5 is very similar in format to Batman #4 -- a Joker story, a "fantasty" story, and two urban crime stories with strong moral messages.
Notes and Trivia: First appearance of Linda Page.